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The Anglo-Saxon Period. “ Not the glittering weapon fights the fight, but rather the hero’s heart.” - Proverb. The Pre-Roman Period. The island we know as England was occupied by a race of people called the Celts. One of these tribes was called the Brythons or Britons.

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the anglo saxon period

The Anglo-Saxon Period

“Not the glittering weapon fights the fight, but rather the hero’s heart.”- Proverb

the pre roman period
The Pre-Roman Period
  • The island we know as England was occupied by a race of people called the Celts.
  • One of these tribes was called the Brythons or Britons.
  • Celtic religion is a form of animism.
  • Druids were their priests.

Goidelic areas; Pictishareas; Brythonicareas.

the roman occupation
The Roman Occupation
  • 55 BC – Julius Caesar begins the invasion
  • 43 AD – Celts finally defeated by Cladius
    • Romans begin to build roads, walls, villas, and baths.
  • 122 AD – Hadrian’s Wall built
    • Seperated Roman Britian from the rest of the island.

Map of Roman Military Campaigns in Britain.

impact of the roman occupation
Impact of the Roman Occupation
  • Roman legions pushed into Wales and Ireland.
  • Prevented Vikings raids from ransacking the island for several hundred years.
  • Unification of the various tribes under Roman rule lead to political stability.
  • Romans build roads, villas, baths, amphitheaters, walls, and forts.
  • Latin was the official language.
  • Practice of recording history led to earliest English “literature” being documentary.
  • Christianity begins to take hold.

Gritstone bas-relief of Romano-British woman.

the end of the roman occupation
The End of the Roman Occupation
  • 410 AD – Romans legions are called back to defend Rome after it was ransacked by Visigoths.
  • The Roman infrastructure and civilization begins to crumble after their departure.
  • 597 AD – King Aethelbert of Kent is converted to Christianity and becomes the first Archbishop of Canterbury.

Kingston Brooch for King Aethelbert.

the anglo saxon invasion
The Anglo-Saxon Invasion
  • After the Romans pull out, Germanic tribes begin invading almost immediately.
  • There were three major groups:
    • The Angles
    • The Saxons
    • The Jutes

General locations of the Anglo-Saxon peoples circa AD 600.

the angles the saxons the jutes
The Angles, the Saxons, & the Jutes
  • The Angles and the Saxons were from Germany.
  • The Jutes were from the Jutland peninsula in Denmark.
    • The Geats were one of the Jute tribes.
  • The nine separate kingdoms are known as the Anglo-Saxon heptarchy.
    • Kent, Essex, Sussex, East Anglia, Northumbria, Mercia, & Wessux.

Map of the Seven Kingdoms

viking invasions
Viking Invasions
  • Occurred from 786 AD-1066 AD.
  • Continued the political instability that occurred after the departure of the Romans.

Viking-style ship illustration.

the epic
The Epic
  • The epic is a long narrative poem on a great and serious subject told in an elevated style which centers on a heroic or quasi-divine figure on whose actions depends the fate of a tribe, a nation, or the human race.
  • The epic also presents a world view of the culture/nation/race from which it comes.
common conventions of the epic
Common Conventions of the Epic
  • opens by:
    • stating the theme or argument,
    • invoking a Muse, and
    • beginning the narrative in medias res
  • the hero is of imposing stature, national or international importance, and of great historical or legendary significance.
  • the setting is vast, covering great nations, the world, or the universe
  • the action consists of deeds of great valor or deeds requiring superhuman courage
  • supernaturalforces—gods, angels, and demons—interest themselves in the action
common conventions of the epic1
Common Conventions of the Epic
  • an elevated style is used (dignified and majestic language)
  • the poet retains a measure of objectivity
  • poet includes catalogs of warriors, ships, armies, genealogies
  • extended formal speeches by the main characters
  • frequent use of the epic simile (very elaborate comparison)
  • use of the epithet, an adjective, adjective phrase, or appostitive that describes a characteristic of a person or thing.
two types of epics
Two Types of Epics
  • Traditional or Folk Epic
    • an epic without certain authorship, assumed to be the product of communal composition—thought to be the collection of various shorter works into one piece by one author
    • The Odyssey, The Epic of Gilgamesh, and Beowulf
  • Art or Literary Epic
    • more sophisticated and more consciously moral in purpose. The author takes greater liberties with the popular materials being treated. The events narrated are usually in a more remote past.
    • The Divine Comedy and The Aeneid
anglo saxon terms concepts
Anglo-Saxon Terms/Concepts
  • Comitatus – relationship between a king and his thanes that reflects companionship, loyalty, love, respect, and a sense of belonging.
    • Essentially, a “marriage” to the king.
  • Wergild - “Man debt.” Idea that saving someone’s life indebted the saved party.
  • Wyrd - Pagan concept of fate.

Anglo-Saxon helmet.

anglo saxon terms concepts1
Anglo-Saxon Terms/Concepts
  • Mead – fermented honey and yeast.
  • Meadhall – center of activity for every village
    • Women were not allowed in.
    • Occasionally the queen and her court were summoned for special occasions.

Anglo-Saxon-style building.

anglo saxon terms concepts2
Anglo-Saxon Terms/Concepts
  • Oral Tradition – the preservation of history and culture through stories, songs, poems, etc., passed down by word of mouth.
  • Scop – Like a bard or a minstrel.
    • The Scop’s job was to compose and recite stories in verse form from memory.
anglo saxon concepts
Anglo-Saxon Concepts

Pagan Values

Christian Values


“Meek shall inherit the earth”

Loyalty to God

Patience and forgiveness


True wealth is in heaven

  • Courage
  • Physical Strength
  • Loyalty to king
  • Wisdom in guiding others
  • Self-confidence
  • Material wealth
anglo saxon lit terms
Anglo-Saxon Lit. Terms
  • Elegy – a mournful complaint. An elegiac poem is a poem that mourns a death or the loss of a loved one.
  • Alliteration – the repetition of initial consonant sounds.
  • Kenning – a hyphenated two-word compound that replaces a concrete noun.
    • Ex.: whale-road = the sea
anglo saxon lit terms1
Anglo-Saxon Lit. Terms
  • Caesure – a mid-line pause in Anglo-Saxon poetry. The caesural pause separates the line into two parts, each with two stressed syllables.
  • Epithet – an identifying descriptive phrase.
    • Ex. Hrothgar, giver of treasure; Beowulf, Higlac’s follower
history of the english language
History of the English Language
  • Language – an system of arbitrary vocal symbols used for communication.
    • The word “language” comes to us in English from the Latin lingua, “language, tongue,” from Old French.
  • Linguistics – the study of language.

"The Tower of Babel,” Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Oil on board, 1563.

history of the english language1
History of the English Language
  • Languages are divided into families.
  • English is a Germanic language from the Indo-European family.
  • Specifically, English is a West-Germanic language, closely related to Frisian.
    • The Frisians were part of the invaders with the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes.

The Germanic Language Family Tree

history of the english language2
History of the English Language
  • Old English was first written in runes.
  • Switched to the Latin alphabet after Christianity began to take off.
  • Old English shows influences from three main cultures:
    • Latin, Norse, and Celtic

Runic alphabet

history of the english language3
History of the English Language
  • Latin – Latin was the language used by the educated classes
    • Monks, priests, etc.
  • Old Norse – Introduced through the Viking invasions.
    • Mostly place names and basic vocabulary.
    • sky, leg, the pronoun they, the verb form are
  • Celtic – Taken from the original inhabitants of the area.
    • Very minor influence
    • The only Celtic word in use in everyday language today is land.
excerpt from beowulf
Excerpt from Beowulf

Old English

Modern Translation

Lo! We have heard of majesty of the Spear-Danes, of those nation-kings in the days of yore,

and how those noblemen promoted zeal.

ScyldScefing took away mead-benches from bands of enemies, from many tribes;

he terrified earls.

Since he was first found destitute (he gained consolation for that) he grew under the heavens,

prospered in honours,

until each of those who lived around him

over the sea had to obey him, give him tribute.

That was a good king!

  • Hwæt! wēGār-Dena in ġeār-dagum,
  • þēod-cyninga, þrymġefrūnon,
  • hūðāæþelingasellenfremedon.
  • Oft ScyldScēfingsceaþenaþrēatum,
  • monegummǣġþum, meodosetlaoftēah,
  • egsodeeorlas. Syððanǣrestwearð
  • fēasceaftfunden, hēþæsfrōfreġebād,
  • wēox under wolcnum, weorðmyndumþāh,
  • oðþæt him ǣġhwylcþāraymbsittendra
  • oferhronrādehȳranscolde,
  • gombangyldan. Þætwæsgōdcyning!
as literature post beowulf
AS Literature, Post-Beowulf
  • The conversion to Christianity brought about a shift from the oral tradition to written record keeping.
  • Monks began to record the poetry and oral tradition of the scops.
    • Think of the Pagan v. Christian values in Beowulf.